|Jonathan Papelbon believes in his former Red Sox teammates||02.18.12 at 3:06 pm ET|
CLEARWATER, Fla. — The reaction of Jonathan Papelbon to the six Boston reporters who made the two-hour trip north up I-75 was totally understandable Saturday – on the occasion of his first spring training press conference with the Phillies.
“What the hell are you guys doing here?,” he teased the group at the beginning of his 23-minute session inside the Bright House Field media center.
The man who threw the final pitch of the biggest pennant stretch collapse in baseball history says the Red Sox won’t be affected this season. As a matter of fact, Papelbon said he expects his former team to come out stronger than ever this season to prove a point.
“They’ll be motivated, no question about it,” Papelbon said in his first spring training press conference Saturday with the Phillies. “There’s too many good guys in that clubhouse and too many competitors and too many guys who have too much pride to just lay down and say, ‘we can just come lay down.’ Those guys aren’t going to come into this season and just lay down. They’re going to work hard. There’s no doubt about it.”
He was honest as he always was in a Boston uniform, answering questions thoughtfully on 2011, his successor with the Red Sox and his former setup man for the last two seasons.
Still, there were questions about whether he has forgotten about the night the sinking liner off the bat of Robert Andino came out of the glove of Carl Crawford at Camden Yards on Sept. 28, ending the Red Sox season in stunning fashion. And there were questions about how much he knew of the clubhouse discord that became apparent days and weeks later.
“I don’t think it was a matter of being surprised or not surprised,” Papelbon said. “I know everybody has had their own opinion about that situation and what went on there. But nobody truly knows what was truly going on. I don’t even truly know because I’m worried about myself and doing my own job. Just because a team struggles or somebody struggles doesn’t mean they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Is that why we lost, no, that’s not why we lost because of what was going on in the clubhouse. That had nothing to do with it.”
Papelbon leaves behind Daniel Bard, who won’t move into his closer’s role but rather start spring training in the Red Sox rotation – a move Papelbon believes is perfect for him. Read the rest of this entry »
|What Jason Varitek really taught Jarrod Saltalamacchia||at 11:09 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — If Jason Varitek has indeed caught his last game in a Red Sox uniform and will be retiring his spring, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will remember one act of kindness and generosity in particular.
Saltalamacchia was with the Braves in 2007 as a minor leaguer and made the trip to Fort Myers for a spring training game. He sent a Red Sox No. 33 jersey over to the Red Sox clubhouse to have the captain sign for him.
“He signed a jersey for me, and on it it said, ‘catch with pride.’ You take that and that’s what he’s done his whole career and I’m going to do the same.”
Now, ironically, Saltalamacchia – after taking over primary catching responsibilities in 2011 – is in position to assume the leadership role of the Red Sox pitching staff, with Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway behind him.
Salty said Friday he hasn’t been preoccupied with whether Varitek will accept the minor league contract offer from the Red Sox and report to camp on Sunday.
“Honestly, I haven’t really though about it,” Saltalamacchia said. “I can’t assume anything. I don’t know where he’s at. I don’t know if he’s thinking about coming. I know they’ve offered him a minor league invite.
“I’m just preparing for myself. It’s like a game day, if I’m not playing, not in the lineup, I’m still going to prepare to play that day. So, I’m prepared for him to be here and for him not to be here.”
The final words of advice he take from Varitek?
“Just be yourself, be who you are,” Saltalamacchia said. “People are going to like you for who you are. People are going to respect you for what you do about your business. There’s a lot of little things as far as catching, that I learned. It’s mainly to be a good person, a good teammate and respect the game.”
|Tim Wakefield: ‘I can finally say it’s over’||02.17.12 at 7:57 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — There was one brief moment where Tim Wakefield lost it.
But like his major league career spanning 19 big league seasons – the final 17 with the Red Sox, he quickly regained composure and went about his business in a workmanlike fashion.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I stand here today,” Wakefield began before pausing to compose himself, “and I’m saddened to say I’ve decided to retire from this wonderful game of baseball.”
Wakefield trembled with the final 15 words, words he’s had been preparing the last several hours, weeks and months since the end of the 2011 season.
Wakefield was surrounded by friends, family, agent Barry Meister and teammates – both present and former – as the sun set on jetBlue Park and the career of one of the most successful knuckleball pitchers in MLB history.
“I can finally say it’s over,” Wakefield said.
“For the past 17 years, all I ever wanted to do is what was best for our team and the organization, whether it was starting, closing or whatever I was asked to do. I always had my spikes on and was ready to go. I’ve been so blessed to have been able to wear this uniform and be a part of this historic franchise for as long as I have and I’ve enjoyed many successes along the way. But when it came down to it, I had to take a hard look at what I felt was best for me, my family and the Red Sox. There is nothing I want more than for this team to win and it’s hard sometimes to take yourself out of the decision process.
“But in my heart, I feel that by retiring, I’m giving them a better chance to do that. In saying that, I also feel this is what is best for my family to succeed as well. This a special time in my kids’ life and I’ve never wanted to regret not being there for them. Thank you to the Red Sox for giving me the greatest time in my life.”
Wakefield was offered a minor league contract and an invite to camp, which he declined, leading to Friday’s decision. Wakefield finished with a career record of 200-180 with 22 saves and a 4.41 ERA in 627 big league games, 463 as a starter. He finished third on the all-time Red Sox wins list six behind Roger Clemens and Cy Young. He goes into retirement as the franchise leader in innings pitched (3,006) and starts (430).
Red Sox chairman Tom Werner represented team ownership and paid tribute to Wakefield professionalism, longevity and success. He also thanked Wakefield for overcoming the 2003 disappointment of Aaron [bleeping] Boone and sacrificing himself in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. That sacrifice of the Game 4 start that season is widely credited with saving the pitching staff and paving the way for the Red Sox to pull off the most dramatic comeback in the sport’s history.
The Red Sox would win the World Series that year and again in 2007, and Wakefield was a key part of both.
“Thank you for the two parades,” Werner said.
And Friday afternoon, after a grueling day of work in the burning sun that baked both of his forearms, Saltalamacchia said he doesn’t feel any added pressure after “The Collapse” from last September.
“I don’t feel any added pressure, no, because we’re going to have to do it together,” Saltalamacchia said. “When I mean leader, I’m not going to have a ‘C’ on my chest, I’m not going to tell people what to do. But I’m going to go about my business the right way, lead by example a little bit on that front, and get to know the pitchers, get to know them a little more and find out what we can do.”
Saltalamacchia said he’s gotten a head start on the season by speaking with new pitching coach Bob McClure.
“I spoke with Bob, and he’s been great as far as the pitching side of it and getting feedback from him has been great,” Saltalamacchia said.
“I don’t think last year there was any kind of [lack of] leadership. We all knew what to do. You’re with a team that’s been there, done that. Guys with two rings, guys with one so we knew what we had to do. I think we might have put a little added pressure on ourselves and that’s where we faltered.”
|Mark Melancon: I’m on the ‘better side’ of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry||02.16.12 at 4:35 pm ET|
He’s a hard thrower who has experience as a closer. He has played in the baseball’s most-famed rivalry as a member of the 2009 World Champion Yankees. He is articulate, quotable and well-liked everywhere he’s been.
“I got a taste of [winning] in New York and now I’m on the other side, which is just as exciting,” the 26-year-old right-handed Melancon said Thursday at the Red Sox new complex in Fort Myers. “I’m so excited. I’ve been on the other side for so long. It’s bickering back and forth and you hear the differences but you always have respect for your competition. Now I’m on the other side of the fence, which is the better side, so I’m looking forward to it.
“I have all respect for them,” Melancon said of the Yankees. “They’re first class. It’s very similar, actually, in how [both teams] go about things. Winning is a priority and that shows.”
And he can wrestle sharks better than anyone in the majors.
As part of his MLB trip to New Zealand in January to teach an MLB camp to kids, he caught some time with the “Great White” sharks in the ocean with his wife, Mary Catherine.
“Those Great Whites are pretty scary but with that said, it was really neat,” he said. “It was kind of a ‘bucket list’ thing but the whole reason I was down there was to teach camps for New Zealand kids who are just learning baseball. That was just a fabulous experience.
“That was totally me. My wife was right there with me. We had created [a bucket list] all through our relationship. For a wedding gift, she had it written out [in calligraphy] and framed. And one of those things was to go “Great White” shark diving. So, we can cross that off. Read the rest of this entry »
|Bobby Valentine will hopefully ‘poke the bear and stoke the fire’ with the Yankees||12.02.11 at 1:30 pm ET|
It’s just what the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry needed. At least, if you judge by the New York media that made the trek up to Boston Thursday in numbers that rivaled a pennant-stretch series between the two clubs at Fenway.
Every New York daily had representation, including multiple reporters in some cases, for the introduction of Bobby Valentine.
It was the perfect storm for the New York media. A media-savvy manager who is charismatic and frank with his judgements, a baseball lifer who understands and appreciates the rivalry. And to cap it all off, a man who recognized each and every New York writer from his seven-year tenure as Mets manager from 1996-2002.
‘We [the Mets] played the Yankees six times,’’ said Valentine, when asked about looking forward to playing the Yankees 18 times in 2012. ‘I can’t imagine 18. Is it like playing 50 games? I think it is. Those long games are about quality hitters. The Yankees are quality top to bottom and the Red Sox are quality top to bottom, that’s why you get those wars.’’
Just ask Joe Torre, Joe Girardi and Terry Francona. All three have spoken at length about why Yankees-Red Sox is something different. Valentine – a native of Stamford, Conn. – clearly wanted to show to his New York and Boston audiences that he gets it.
‘I think we are going to be able to match them,’’ Valentine said. ‘It’s not going to be the best team that wins, but the team that plays the best.’’
The argument certainly could be made that no hire in recent Red Sox history has had the marquee value to New Yorkers like Bobby Valentine offers.
‘If Bobby Valentine pokes the bear and stokes the fire, that’s OK,’’ Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino told the NY Post’s Kevin Kernan.
Kernan pointed out that it was Larry Lucchino who gave us the nickname “Evil Empire” for the Yankees.
‘If this intensifies it, that’s OK with us,” Lucchino told the Post. ‘One thing everybody agrees upon, is that Bobby is a highly competitive, highly compassionate guy who will not be outworked,’ Lucchino added. ‘This is the kind of guy you want leading you into battle against your dreaded rival.’’
|Bobby Valentine thanks Red Sox ownership for giving their blessing to Ben Cherington||12.01.11 at 11:45 pm ET|
But the opening of his acceptance speech in the State Street Pavilion raised a few eyebrows. He thanked John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino for giving their stamp of approval to GM Ben Cherington for hiring him as the 45th manager in team history.
“I’d like to thank Ben and his front office staff. I’d like to thank John and Tom and Larry for giving the blessings to Ben on his decision,” Valentine said.
The irony in that statement is that most are assuming that this wasn’t Cherington’s decision at all but instead a hand-picked choice of ownership.
“I’d like to thank all my friends, family who have supported me,” Valentine said. “Many of you people out there who have said a kind word or two to allow this to happen because this day is a special day. It’s more than a special day. It’s the beginning of a life that I think is going to extend beyond anything I ever thought.
“The talent, the players that we have in this organization is a gift to anyone. And I’m the receiver of that gift. I think we’re going to do this, man. I really and truly appreciate this opportunity.”
|Bobby Valentine says he’s more than willing to listen to the players and their wishes||at 11:26 pm ET|
The worst September collapse in baseball history was no laughing matter to Red Sox fans when it cost the team a berth in the postseason.
But Bobby Valentine used it Thursday as a backdrop to define the clean slate he plans on giving the players who return in 2012, with Valentine replacing Valentine in the skipper’s chair.
“Something happened in September that I wasn’t involved in,” Valentine said. “I didn’t see it first-hand. I think reputation is something other people think about you and write. Now, maybe this group of guys had a reputation that isn’t warranted because everything I’ve heard about the players that were in the uniform last year and the coaching staff says nothing but they had great character.”
Valentine heard all the horror stories of the Red Sox players losing control inside their own clubhouse and the team becoming undisciplined when the noose got tighter and tighter around the team’s neck in the final three weeks.
“There might have been a couple of characters that got out of line or situations that got spinning too fast. I don’t know,” Valentine said. “I can tell you that I’m looking forward to working with this group and establishing a culture of excellence.”
Valentine, of course, comes to Boston after working on the Sunday Night Baseball telecasts at ESPN. It was there where he earned a reputation for criticizing several players, like Carl Crawford for his open stance and Josh Beckett for his labored, deliberate and painfully-slow delivery with runners on base.
“I see one of my bosses here and one of my colleagues here from ESPN,” Valentine said. “And as I was giving thanks, I’ve got to give thanks to ESPN for giving me the chance to be an analyst. And part of that job, as analyst, is to be critical. I believe if some people heard what I had to say and took exception with it, I get that.
“I’m looking forward to the time where it’s not a conversation they’re going to hear from a comment on television, our conversation is going to be one-on-one. And I’m looking forward to talking with the players, being with the players, communicating what I think should be done or could be done. And I’m sure they’re looking forward to communicating with me to tell me that it’s OK to have an open stance or take 20 seconds in between pitches.”
No doubt, Crawford, Beckett and others inside the Red Sox will take Bobby V up on that offer.
When the Red Sox did not offer candidate Dale Sveum the job after he interviewed with the team for a second time, rumors swirled that Cherington did get to ultimately make the decision.
“It’s just not true,” Cherington said of whether president Larry Lucchino or somebody in ownership made the decision. “We went through a very thorough process. We talked to a lot of candidates, we did a lot of research on a lot of candidates. At the end of the process, I made a recommendation to ownership, I believe it was sometime on Monday, that we offer the position to Bobby, and we did sometime Monday or Tuesday morning, then he accepted it.
“That’s the truth,” he added. “It was a collaborative process. Ownership, as they as they absolutely should, was involved in the discussion about all the candidates.”
|Doc Rivers isn’t expecting any comps from Bobby Valentine||at 11:46 am ET|
Rivers, who was back in rare form in front of a microphone on Thursday at the Celtics practice facility, was asked whether he has the kind of relationship with the new Red Sox manager that he had with Terry Francona.
Rivers was with the Knicks in the early 1990s while Valentine came onto the scene in New York in 1996 as manager of the Mets. The two lived in Stamford, Conn.
Rivers told reporters he didn’t get any free meals at Valentine’s restaurant, which is also in the birth city of the new Red Sox manager.
“I know Bobby a little bit, actually when I was with the Knicks one thousand years ago,” Rivers said. “I got to know him a little bit. We lived in the same town in Stamford. I ate a “Bobby V’s” quite a bit. I can tell you he doesn’t comp. I can tell you that much about him. I had to pay.”
As for Francona, Rivers said he keeps in touch with the former Red Sox skipper, who was a huge Celtics fan during his time in Boston.
“Tito, we talk,” Rivers said. “He’s one of my favorite people. I’ll miss him.”
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